The Electoral Boundaries hearings that took place on Oct. 16 and 17, in Nanaimo and Victoria are finished and local politicians have had their chance to voice concerns over the proposed electoral boundary changes.
Overall it seems that Mayor Ross Forrest, CVRD Area F director Ian Morrison, and MP Jean Crowder feel that they were heard and are optimistic that the commission will take their concerns into consideration.
“I think there was 21 speakers or something,” said Forrest. “And they weren’t all on our area, but it was pretty unanimous. Everybody that did speak [said] that Lake Cowichan shouldn’t be in a riding with Nanaimo; we should be in with the rest of the Cowichan.
“The guy that was the head of the three commissions, he’s a retired judge, and he said that they’d been hearing a bit about that Lake Cowichan shouldn’t be in that riding as well, so they’re listening to what’s being said.”
He adds that he is glad he attended the hearing to both speak to the issue and to hear what others had to say.
“There’s no guarantee that our [proposed boundaries] are going to get changed, but I think that by all the information that they’re hearing, and after listening to all that information, I’m confident that they will. I think there were some strong enough points made.”
Morrison says that he attended both the Nanaimo and the Victoria hearings and that the Nanaimo one was a little bit unusual compared to Victoria.
“I had a chance to talk to the commissioners at the Victoria one, and they actually said that the Nanaimo one was quite unusual because virtually everyone there spoke and they had very few no-shows,” said Morrison.
Comparatively, at the Victoria hearing there were over twice as many people, and only half of them were there to speak.
Morrison says he made a few key points at the Nanaimo hearing.
“My specific points were that [Areas] F, I, and the Town of Lake Cowichan amount to approximately 6,000 people that while we are geographically central to the Cowichan riding, we don’t have natural linkages to Nanaimo like we do to Victoria. And examples of that are: we’ve got the Pacific Marine Circle Route, the Kinsol Trestle to Victoria, and we’re nearing completion of Trans Canada Trail connections. Our core commercial/cultural activities are Duncan based.”
Morrison also spoke to the fact that the proposed boundaries would make access to constituency services difficult.
“Now that was a big deal. We’re used to our provincial representation in Duncan, we’re used to our federal representation in Duncan. If the proposed ridings were to go ahead then obviously a Nanaimo centred riding is going to have a constituency office there,” said Morrison.
“We would have to drive over an hour from our area mainly through another riding to get to constituency services in Nanaimo.”
But he says that his key point focussed on public transit, and the barrier that lack of services between Lake Cowichan and Nanaimo would present.
“You can’t get to Nanaimo via public transit from the Cowichan Valley. And those people that would require constituency services, that don’t have access to an automobile, would be unable to personally attend the constituency office in the riding of the MP that represents them.”
He says this is further compounded by the fact that Greyhound Canada has applied to the Passenger Transportation Board to dramatically reduce its services between Victoria and Nanaimo.
Director Morrison noted all three commissioners writing furiously upon hearing that point.
“I made a passionate argument about the Cowichan Watershed and how the proposed boundaries have the potential of dividing the watershed into two separate federal ridings,” added Morrison.
Crowder also noted the presentations that spoke to the importance of the Cowichan Watershed and the negative impact that dividing the riding would have.
“I hadn’t heard an argument from that perspective before,” said Crowder, and added that with the drought experienced this summer, keeping the watershed in one riding is important now more than ever.
She also made the point that if the riding were to be divided, this could possibly create problems when applying for infrastructure funding.
“A lot of things have to be reconciled,” said Crowder. “But I’m confident that the commission is hearing people. Now they have to weigh what they have heard.”
Correction: Proposed changes to electoral boundaries don’t make sense, Oct.17
In the Oct. 17 issue of the Gazette, it was incorrectly stated that Morrison believes “the Cowichan Valley should be a riding unto itself as the area has a population of approximately 115,000.”
Morrison has clarified this by stating: “If they were to do a Cowichan Valley based riding, it would be 82,000, plus where they might be able to draw in some other populations from elsewhere.”